It’s not “Snakes on a Plane” causing concern among the traveling public, but scorpions, as two of the deadly creatures have attacked passengers on separate U.S. flights in the past week.
Yet federal officials are downplaying the possibility the events are related to terrorism.
“We have no reason to believe there is any connection to any kind of terrorist activity,” said Nico Melendez, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, a division on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The first incident took place Jan. 3 as David Sullivan of Stowe, Vt., was stung twice on a trip home from San Francisco.
He and his wife, Helena, boarded a United Air Lines connecting flight in Chicago, and were just minutes from their destination in Burlington, Vt., when he first noticed a problem with his right leg, feeling as if it had gone to sleep.
After the plane landed, Sullivan was waiting for his luggage, and again felt a strange sensation, but this time it was his left shin.
“It was getting more intense. It felt like a small electric shock,” Sullivan told the Burlington Free Press. “I could feel the venom work its way through my body.”
When he pulled up his pants leg to investigate, an inch-and-a-half-long scorpion scooted down his leg and onto the floor, where a fellow passenger stepped on it. The feeling of electrical shock remained in Sullivan’s legs for 36 hours, and he suffered flu symptoms for several days afterward.
The second incident took place Sunday, as a Canadian college student was returning to Toronto on an American Airlines flight out of Miami.
Anthony Harris, 21, who had been in Costa Rica prior to stopping in Miami, suddenly felt as if someone were tearing the hair out of his leg.
He told the Toronto Star that when the sharp pain dulled to a throbbing ache, he thought his leg had simply cramped up.
“Then I looked down and there was a scorpion crawling up my leg,” he said.
Harris was unsure if the arachnid sneaked into his knapsack in Costa Rica, or if it came with someone else, but he used his school textbook to kill the creature.
“I scooped it up and sort of smooshed it closed,” he said.
Though Harris and Sullivan didn’t suffer any serious complications from their encounters, the fact that two scorpions made it onto U.S. commercial flights and stung two passengers in the same week is raising eyebrows.
Melendez at the TSA, which was created as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America, told WND this is the first time he’s ever heard of incidents involving scorpions, let alone two within four days of each other. But he adds the scorpions have not changed the way the agency is handling security.
“As far as TSA is concerned, nothing [different] is being done. We’re looking for prohibited items such as knives and bombs and guns,” Melendez said. “We don’t have a prohibition on God’s creatures going on planes.”
When WND contacted the Federal Aviation Administration, officials there had not even heard of the scorpion incidents, but later indicated airlines are not mandated to inform the agency of such cases unless they create serious problems.
“There’s no requirement to report such an occurrence to the FAA unless there’s a medical emergency that requires the plane to divert or to declare an emergency and land, or if the animal or bug or whatever causes damage to the aircraft that results in a system malfunction,” said Les Dorr, an FAA spokesman.
Officials at American and United have not commented on how they believe the scorpions got aboard their respective flights, nor any measures they might have in place to preclude such incidents in the future.
But United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski told the Associated Press the Sullivan case “is something that we will investigate and look into. We’re very sorry for what happened. Our customer safety and security is our No. 1 priority.”
“The airlines tell you you can’t bring water or shampoo on a plane,” Helena Sullivan told AP, referring to recent security restrictions. “All the security we go through” apparently didn’t apply to the scorpion, she said.
While healthy adults can normally withstand scorpion stings, the venom can be lethal to the young, elderly, infirm or those allergic to the venom.